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The Great Game, Round Three
By Jeff M. Smith, The Journal of International Security Affairs, November 20, 2009

When the eight states that now constitute Central Asia and the Caucasus freed themselves from the grip of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was perhaps inevitable that outside powers would rush to fill the vacuum. Of the eight at least three, the Caspian Basin states (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan) found themselves awash in natural resources. The remaining five (Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), though less endowed materially, are strategically situated along crucial energy, trade, and logistics corridors. The combination of renewed interest and a reopened playing field in the heart of Eurasia resulted in the rise of a new “Great Game,” reminiscent of the great-power contest of the 19th century between the British and Russian empires over access to India glorified by Rudyard Kipling in his day. A decade-and-a-half on, this Great Game has matured, and undergone important changes. More important, however, as the energy struggle evolved a new front in the Game emerged out of the ashes of the September 11th terrorist attacks: one that pits the United States against Russia for influence and basing rights in Central Asia.

No Substitute For Substance
By Robert R. Reilly, The Journal of International Security Affairs, November 9, 2009

The primary purpose of U.S. public diplomacy is to explain, promote, and defend American principles to audiences abroad. This objective goes well beyond the public affairs function of presenting and explaining the specific policies of various administrations. Policies and administrations change; principles do not, so long as the United States remains true to itself. Public diplomacy has a particularly vital mission during war, when the peoples of other countries, whether adversaries or allies, need to know why we fight. After all, it is a conflict of ideas that is behind the shooting wars, and it is that conflict which must be won to achieve any lasting success.

An Islamist Pivot To The East
By Ilan Berman, Washington Times, November 6, 2009

"This is the way the world ends," T.S. Eliot wrote in his epic 1925 poem "The Hollow Men," "not with a bang but a whimper." Had he written it today, Eliot could easily have been speaking about the strategic divorce taking place between Israel and Turkey - a monumental decoupling with the power to alter the correlation of forces in the greater Middle East.

Bargaining From Strength
By Ilan Berman, Defense News, November 2, 2009
Don't let the atmospherics fool you. The inaugural U.S.-Iranian parlay that took place in Geneva on Oct. 1 may have netted a pair of notable diplomatic concessions from the Islamic Republic, namely, a commitment to open its recently disclosed nuclear facility in Qom to international inspectors, and agreement in principle to having at least a portion of its nuclear cycle carried out on foreign soil. But Tehran is already giving indications of reverting to type.
In the wake of talks with Washington, Iranian officials have taken pains to reaffirm that they still view their nuclear program as an "inalienable" right. Not surprisingly, they have nixed the idea of foreign enrichment, demanded nuclear fuel imports from abroad, and announced plans to install a new generation of even faster centrifuges at the previously clandestine uranium plant in Qom. The message is clear: No matter the diplomatic niceties, Iran's nuclear program is not up for grabs.
Obama Needs To Rethink Pyongyang
By Ilan Berman, Far Eastern Economic Review, October 26, 2009

The problem of North Korea has bedeviled policy makers in Washington for years. The notoriously opaque Stalinist state that sits above the 38th Parallel represents one of the world’s most intractable security dilemmas. Starting this spring, however, the challenge posed by Pyongyang has grown more acute. The defiant series of nuclear and ballistic tests carried out by Kim Jong Il in May has brought into sharp focus the growing threat posed by the North’s strategic arsenal—and precipitated a frenzy of international activity in response.

A 'Reset' Is Needed Here
By Ilan Berman, Washington Times, October 16, 2009

What's in a name? This spring, the Obama administration ignited a political firestorm when it replaced the phrase "war on terror" with the more antiseptic "overseas contingency operations." The turn of phrase led critics of the administration to conclude that, when it came to confronting our terrorist foes, the White House was trading substance for style.

Recent events have done little to dispel that notion. As John Brennan, the president's top adviser on counterterrorism, told an audience at the prestigious Center for Strategic and International Studies back in August, Team Obama defines the current conflict quite differently from its predecessor - as neither a "war on terrorism" nor a "global" struggle.

Make Terrorists Compete On Ideas
By Ilan Berman,, October 13, 2009

In the eight years since Sept. 11, the U.S. has devoted a great deal of funding and thinking to the struggle against radical Islam. There's at least one area where it's fallen short, though: It hasn't mounted a serious economic challenge to the activities and ideologies of terrorist groups on a grassroots level.

Our Missile-Defense Race Against Iran
By Ilan Berman, Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2009

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Obama administration's decision last Thursday to scrap missile-defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic is that it was so long in coming. Mr. Obama has defended his decision on both technical and financial grounds. The Bush administration's plans to deploy ground-based interceptors in Poland and early warning radars in the Czech Republic were targeted as part of his campaign pledge to eliminate billions of dollars in missile-defense spending. Instead, the White House now has pledged to develop a new theater and sea-based missile-defense architecture for Europe that "will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's allies." But what about defense of America?

HowTo Engage Iran (If You Must)
By Ilan Berman,, September 8, 2009

After months of dithering and delay, the Iranian government appears to have grudgingly accepted the U.S. president's diplomatic overtures. Just shy of the deadline for dialogue set by the White House, the Islamic Republic has announced its readiness to offer new "proposals" for talks over its nuclear program.

The move is a political victory of sorts for Obama, who has made "engagement" with Iran a centerpiece of his Middle East policy. But it might end up being a Pyrrhic victory. If true to form, Iran will likely try to use the upcoming talks with Washington the same way it did previous ones with Europe -- as a way to play for time and add permanence to its nuclear project. For Obama to convince Iran's rulers that the costs of their nuclear effort will far outweigh the perceived benefits, talking alone won't be enough; the White House will need real leverage over Tehran.

With Friends Like These
By Matthew RJ Brodsky, The American Spectator, September 8, 2009

When the Fatah Central Committee convened its sixth party conference last month in Bethlehem -- the first such meeting in twenty years and the first ever held on Palestinian Authority territory -- one might have expected a bit of soul-searching. After all, more than two decades after the Palestine Liberation Organization and its main political faction met America's prerequisites for a dialogue by rhetorically recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism, and accepting United Nations Resolution 242, a casual observer might assume that a re-examination of revolutionary principles was in order. Yet nothing of the sort occurred.